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Cote d’Ivoire ruthless but giants struggle on bumpy World Cup qualifying start

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Cote d’Ivoire began their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign in scintillating fashion, destroying Seychelles 9-0 on Friday. However, several African heavyweights endured more laboured victories.

The Ivorians produced a statement performance in their Group F opener, led by teenage striker Karim Konate’s double. Hamed Traore also netted twice after coming off the bench.

Seychelles goalkeeper Carlos Simoen made several excellent saves to prevent further humiliation for the minnows in the one-sided rout.

The result provides serious motivation ahead of Cote d’Ivoire’s TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations hosting duties in January.

On this evidence, the Ivorians appear serious contenders to secure a place at the expanded 2026 World Cup in North America.

Elsewhere, favourites like Cameroon and Ghana lacked fluency despite ultimately prevailing over low-ranked opposition.

Cameroon led Mauritius just 1-0 at halftime and only pulled away late for a 3-0 win. Ghana left it even later, finally breaking Madagascar‘s resistance in the 96th minute through Inaki Williams.

Tunisia were similarly restrained in beating Sao Tome and Principe 4-0. Mali and Zambia claimed solid home victories over Chad and Congo respectively.

In Group I, the Comoros Islands beat the Central African Republic 4-2 in an entertaining encounter. While Malawi upset Liberia 1-0 away thanks to substitute Chifundo Mphasi’s winner.

With only nine direct World Cup spots available, plus one inter-confederation playoff place, Africa’s giants know consistency is key as qualifying progresses.

A further three qualifiers will be played on Saturday to complete the first round of matches in the African zone.

There are nine groups in the African preliminaries where the winner qualifies for the 2026 finals.

The four best runners-up get a further chance to qualify in a two-tier playoff system.

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